9:18 pm: Both Cash and McClanahan expressed some optimism that McClanahan wouldn’t have much time to miss after the game (top kin left). Of course, that won’t be officially established until tomorrow’s imaging results come back.
18:52: Blasting bait Shane McClanahan was scratched against the Marlins shortly before game time from tonight’s start. The star-left paw felt uncomfortable while warming up in the bullpen and was visibly upset (video link supplied by Rob Friedman). The club later announced his preliminary diagnosis as a shoulder impingement (h/t to Tricia Whitaker of Bally Sports Florida). He will undergo additional imaging tomorrow, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The team will provide more information in the coming days, but it is obviously a worrying development. Shoulder problems are a concern for any pitcher, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if McClanahan lands on the 15-day injured list. Even a brief absence would be a remarkable blow to a Tampa Bay club that currently occupies the highest Wild Card position in the American League. The Rays are just half a game ahead of the Mariners and a game away from the Blue Jays, with a three game gap between themselves and the closest current non-playoff team (the Orioles).
Their place in the standings makes the last five weeks crucial as the Rays try to finish a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. You could argue that no player is more important to those efforts than McClanahan, the American League’s All-Star Game starter and one of the best pitchers in the sport. After a prolific rookie season in which he racked up a 3.43 ERA in his first 25 big league starts, McClanahan has counted himself among the elite of the game this year. He has worked to a scintillating 2.20 ERA over 24 outings and 147 1/3 frames. The former first-rounder defeated an elite 32.5% of the batters faced and caused ground balls at a massive 52.3% clip, while walking just 5.4% of the opponents.
McClanahan has made a strong case for considering the AL Cy Young award, partnering with the following: Justin Verlander (which landed on the IL this afternoon), Dylan Cease and Framber Valdez are among the best starters on the Junior Circuit. If healthy, McClanahan would be Captain Kevin Cash’s obvious pick for Game 1 of a potential playoff series.
The Rays have dealt with numerous pitching injuries this season. Most of that has come into the bullpen, but they’ve been without Tyler Glasnow all season as he recovers from last year’s Tommy John procedure and has lost high-end prospect Shane Bazo for two extended pieces. It’s possible that both Glasnow and Baz could play a part in the mix, giving Tampa Bay a potentially enviable stock of weapons when they’re at full strength.